Tigers of the Week: Sean Mewshaw ’97 and Desi Van Til ’99 Collaborate on the Feature Film ‘Tumbledown’

Sean Mewshaw ’97 and Desi Van Til ’99 at the Napa Valley Film Festival. (Courtesy Sean Mewshaw and Desi Van Til)

Sean Mewshaw ’97 and Desi Van Til ’99 at the Napa Valley Film Festival. (Courtesy Sean Mewshaw and Desi Van Til)

Despite being English majors, active in performance groups like Theater Intime, and only two years apart at Princeton, Sean Mewshaw ’97 and Desi Van Til ’99 never crossed paths on campus. But the pair, who are now married with two children, share a common path: They both point to their experiences at the University as imperative to their success in the film industry.

Van Til and Mewshaw met in Los Angeles in 2000 through mutual friends and began dating soon after while starting to establish themselves professionally in Hollywood; during that time Mewshaw worked on Gangs of New York and Remember the Titans, and Van Til helped produce 13 Going On 30 and Drillbit Taylor.

After almost a decade of working in Los Angeles, Van Til began feeling homesick for her home state of Maine. She began to write — first a series of scenes between two characters, but it soon developed into a full-blown screenplay called Tumbledown, named after a mountain not far from Van Til’s hometown of Farmington, Maine.

“It was very much Desi diving into her own inquisitions about ‘why do I live in LA, could I live back in Maine, and what does it mean to live in the woods where it’s beautiful and you have time and space,’ ” said Mewshaw.

Tumbledown is a comedic love story about a woman named Hannah (Rebecca Hall) who lives in the woods of Maine and is struggling to move on with her life after the death of her husband. When she meets Andrew (Jason Sudeikis), a New York academic who has his own theories about her late husband’s death, the two collaborate to put together the real story. Continue reading

Laqueur *73 Unearths the History of Mortal Remains

Thomas Laqueur *73

Thomas Laqueur *73

From the monumental pyramids of Egypt to the modern cemeteries of Arlington, humans always have cared deeply about the dead and the work of attending to their remains. When Diogenes told his students to treat his corpse as an empty husk and toss it to the wild animals, he violated one of humankind’s only universal taboos. In The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Thomas Laqueur *73 argues that human society is profoundly shaped by the activity of caring for the dead. The process promises meaning and remembrance, and helps us to live with the knowledge of our own mortality, Laqueur points out, writing, “The living need the dead far more than the dead need the living.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Architect and Professor Douglas Kelbaugh ’67 *72

Douglas Kelbaugh ’67 *72 (Courtesy Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning)

Douglas Kelbaugh ’67 *72 (Courtesy Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning)

Architect and professor Douglas Kelbaugh ’67 *72 recently was selected to receive the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architecture Education in recognition of his efforts “to shape a generation’s thinking about the environmental aspects of architecture,” according to the award announcement from the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Kelbaugh is a former dean of the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, where he continues to teach. Before coming to Michigan, he served as chair of the architecture department at the University of Washington.

Kelbaugh studied architecture as both an undergraduate and graduate student at Princeton, and he launched his career not far from his alma mater. One block away from Nassau Street, he built an innovative solar home in the mid-1970s, incorporating a Trombe wall, a south-facing glass wall backed by a concrete wall that collects and radiates heat.

“That house garnered a lot of publicity,” Kelbaugh recalled. “We stopped counting, but I think it was in over a hundred books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, you name it. Even in magazine ads, it was showing up, for products that had nothing to do with the house!”

As a pioneer in passive solar architecture, Kelbaugh took a deep interest in energy conservation. He later partnered with Peter Calthorpe, a founder of New Urbanism, and pursued transit-oriented development projects. Continue reading

Fast ’70 Explores the Links Between Shame and Violence

Jonathan Fast ’70

In Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence, Jonathan Fast ’70 explains that some researchers trace the roots of all criminal violence back to shame. Many agree that shame is an inborn emotion — one that once served an evolutionary purpose and continues to be a teaching tool, but that nowadays often has complex, even violent consequences.

Fast explores the idea that “the lion’s share of human misery is the result of shame that is misdirected, unidentified, or unacknowledged.” He adds, “We avoid naming shame and retreat from discussing it, as Harry Potter’s friends avoid mentioning Voldemort.” He argues that beyond its usual associations with childhood, shame remains a large part of adult life, even if it is no longer recognized explicitly as such. Continue reading

Hirshfeld ’73 To Open Hatcher Lecture Series at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Alan Hirshfeld '73 (Sasha Helper)

Alan Hirshfeld ’73 (Sasha Helper)

Astronomer Alan Hirshfeld ’73, author of the book Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe, will deliver the opening talk in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday Lecture Series Jan. 9 at 9:30 a.m.

Hirshfeld, a professor at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, leads off a string of lecturers with Princeton connections in this year’s series, which also includes former University president Shirley Tilghman (Jan. 16); Frank von Hippel, co-founder of the University’s Program on Science and Global Security (Jan. 30); chemical and biological engineering professor Lynn Loo (Feb. 6); mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Edgar Choueiri *91 (Feb. 13); molecular biology professor Coleen Murphy (Feb. 27); and astrophysics professor David Spergel ’80 (March 12). View the complete schedule here. Continue reading

Tigers of the Week: 2015

tow_collage-1021PAW’s Tiger of the Week feature will be taking a break for the next two weeks, but we encourage readers to keep sending nominations of alumni doing interesting or notable things (see the form at the bottom of this post). About half of our 2015 honorees were nominated by PAW readers. Many have made local or national headlines, but thanks to your input, we’re just as likely to profile alumni who’ve made their mark away from the public spotlight. Follow the links below to read about the 53 alumni featured in the last 12 months.

Mike Condon ’13David Zabel ’88Mark Pavlyukovskyy ’13Randy Hobler ’68Daniel Velasco ’13Arron Melvin ’01 *07Chris Hamm ’14John Oakes ’83Monica Greco ’13Doug Emlen *94Luna Ranjit *04Allegra Wiprud ’14Vin Gupta ’05Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ’00Christian Birky ’13Ajay Kapur ’02Patrick Ryan ’68Ross Tucker ’01Gavin Black ’79Grant Wentworth ’09Zachary Pincus-Roth ’02 and Eve Weston ’01Leonid Kruglyak ’87Jasmine ‘Jazzy’ Ellis ’10Anne Matlock Dinneen ’99Rick Hamlin ’77Ben Taub ’14Jay Xu *08David Billington ’50Veneka Chagwedera ’09 and Jared Crooks ’11Gevvie Stone ’07Mark Milley ’80Sarah Sherman ’08Valerie Vigoda ’87Lili Anolik ’00Landon Y. Jones ’66Stu Nunnery ’71Danielle Ivory ’05Mary Throne ’82Scott Clemons ’90Nick Guthe ’91Stephanie Flack ’92Jason Schwartz ’03Ellie Kemper ’02Andrew Jarecki ’85Mark Smith ’09 and James Burgess ’09Jodi Hauptman ’86Jonathan Mayer ’09Claire Max *72 and David Weinberg *89George Hawkins ’83

Nominate your top Tiger

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.